Challenges involved in early years teaching provision in the UK
17th March 2023
Author: Cristina Motoca, part-time PhD (Prof) Education student at the University of Roehampton.
Early years educators are vital professionals for quality education and care for all children, yet they are the worst-paid workforce due to underfunding.
It is time to stand up for our early years colleagues, advocating for all our children and decreasing the inequalities currently exacerbated by the pandemic and the financial crises. While early years educators are considered vital professionals to ensure quality education and care for all children, their retention, remuneration and recognition indicate a real struggle within the field. According to a report published in 2021 by Early Years Alliance, the difficulty in recruiting early years employees reached its crisis point, with approximately 84% of providers being faced with this difficulty.
Why just in the spotlight when new campaigns are launched for general elections?
The early years sector is acknowledged only when new campaigns are launched for general elections. Still, it should not be that way because the first five years of a child in a quality provision that employs quality early years educators could mean children achieve better in life, moreover, when it comes to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The government and policy actors should refrain from allowing such disparities between our early years colleagues and colleagues from higher, secondary or primary education regarding funding, recognition and professionalisation. Many of our colleagues have left the early years workforce as the sector withholds a heavily marginalised position in education:
‘I am very sad to be considering leaving this sector, but I am tired of unrealistic demands and insufficient funding…If I could sell up now, I would. I feel undervalued and am exhausted. We have to beg for any support … [the government] needs to listen to the sector: it’s on its knees’ (Early Years Alliance, 2021, p.10).
Quality employees imply quality education and care for all children
According to research, the quality of early years settings could potentially assist children’s educational progression until age sixteen and reduce the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children (Sylva et al., 2014, cited in West and Noden, 2018). Yet, due to the sector being so undervalued, many early years employees decide to leave, which means a huge loss of competencies, skills and expertise. Therefore, it is time to act to ensure better funding for the sector, nationally agreed work and pay conditions which will support the sector to attract high-quality early years educators.
Moreover, high-quality early years educators are fundamental for children’s positive live trajectories and economic and social development. To ensure that future generations of children will receive high-quality education and care from long-term, high-quality early years educators, it is needed first and foremost to break this cycle going on for years and invest in making early years economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
Considering all the above, it is time for the government to act by taking a pivotal position and start developing a long-term and clear plan to fund the sector effectively to ensure that all children receive high-quality education and care (Baker and Di Carlo, 2020). Our children's future is in the hands of those representing us, such as the government. The research recommendations made for years should be acknowledged to make meaningful changes within the sector.
About the author
Cristina Motoca is a part-time PhD (Prof) Education student at the University of Roehampton, developing a thesis on strategies devised in models of practice to reduce employee turnover and attain retention in England within the wider context of early years through to the perceptions of early years’ leaders and policy actors. Alongside her research student role, she has been a leader in early years for over ten years and recently a Student Engagement Coach at the University of Roehampton.
Baker, M. and Di Carlo, M. (2020) ‘The Coronavirus Pandemic and K-12 Education Funding’. Albert Shanker Institute.
Early Years Alliance (2021) Breaking Point: The impact of recruitment and retention challenges on the early years sector in England. (Accessed 30 December 2022).
West, A. and Noden, P. (2018) ‘Nationalising and transforming the public funding of early years education (and care) in England 1996-2017’, British Journal of Educational Studies’, 67(2), pp. 145-167. Available at: DOI:10.1080/0007005.2018.1478058.
Quality education for all
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